Ganging Up on Violence
Why can’t Salinas do what Santa Barbara did?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Recently, there have been many emotional letters written regarding Salinas’ gang problems. I suppose it’s not enough that our economy is in crisis but now our community must also worry about having our freedom threatened by low-life gangsters. I am a native of Salinas and am as frustrated as everyone else. It is mind-boggling that not one person in our leadership is creative enough to come up with a brilliant plan to protect this city. The fact that certain city officials get publicly upset when they are taken to task is really too bad. We have teens being killed, banks and stores being robbed during the day and citizens’ lives being placed at risk. Why, I ask, are we not following the examples of how leaders in other cities are successfully fighting crime? Is it too shameful to ask for outside help, possibly admitting that we cannot get the job done? How many people have to die? Is this the type of political arrogance we can afford? Sadly, this problem is now way too big for Salinas’ law enforcement to handle. Just look at what is happening in the border towns of Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana. Military forces are now policing the streets daily to protect the people because the drug cartels are so powerful and their veins run deep into the prisons and onto the streets. Salinas needs to start an eradication process bigger than we have ever seen, now! We must protect our innocent from a mentality that good people should never be forced to comprehend.
WE HAVE TEENS BEING KILLED, BANKS AND STORES BEING ROBBED DURING THE DAY AND CITIZENS’ LIVES BEING PLACED AT RISK.
Just down the road, the beautiful tourist and college town of Santa Barbara was also being terrorized by gang violence. The community finally rallied and decided that they were fed up with street crime. On Oct. 15, 2008, a huge sting called “Operation Gator Roll” took place. “Gator Roll” is a martial arts move in which a person is brought to submission through an attack to the head. The early-morning operation involved more than 400 law enforcement officers, 18 local, state and federal agencies, exclusively targeting the huge Eastside gang. Agencies involved were the FBI, ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, U.S. Marshals, the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department, among others. All of these agencies worked closely with Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez. The early-morning raid was done throughout various locations around Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.Those arrested were booked at the “Dome of Doom” Showgrounds and taken to federal jail in L.A. to await trial, with all the proceedings taken away from Santa Barbara. The gangsters were not allowed to do time locally, so they couldn’t associate with their gangster friends. Federal prosecution means federal prison and tougher sentencing. A total of 28 gang members were indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, including 19 people under the RICO Act, originally used to target the Mafia. The racketeering charges were the first ever to be taken against residents of the Central Coast. Another 17 defendants charged in the indictments were already in custody on state charges and were handed over to federal authorities. In addition, 17 others were expected to be charged in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Four ICE arrests were made on the day of the raid. Authorities have indicated they will be persistent and are planning future raids. Santa Barbara has sent a loud and clear message, “We will spare nothing to come and get you.”
Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and Police Chief Dan Ortega must come to the realization that again, this matter is way out of their league. Police officers are stressed as they face public scrutiny and are placed so far on the edge that they are making bad decisions. City leadership keeps placing the officers in front of the bear with sticks and then wonders why they become subjects of ridicule. Stop exposing the true condition of the police force to the media. Doing so provides the gangs a “one up” on every effort you are making. Never show your hand. While we appreciate the gesture that the Naval Postgraduate School will help “study” the gang mentality in Salinas, time is of the essence. The last thing we need right now in this failing economy, Mayor Donahue, is to have our taxes increased again to hire more police officers. To do what? What is your new game plan? There is a quote from the movie Jerry McGuire, “Help us, to help you!” I challenge city officials to look outside the box and to visit the idea of having professionals in each of their areas of expertise take over as they did in Santa Barbara. I then would have no problem helping “pay” for peace.